Alexandro Malaspina to his brother Azzo Giacinto   [1]

Acapulco, April 27, 1791

      I am sending you a brief account of our experience here in Lima, the capital of Perú. The trip is very meagre in terms of incident, but rich in regard to astronomy, natural history and politics. However, those topics cannot be conveyed adequately in a short letter.
      The campaign on which we shall embark in two days’ time has the object of examining [whether there exists?] a passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean located at about 60 degrees [of latitude] at this end, whence we shall sail as far north as 75 degrees before descending into Hudson’s Bay. I have previously examined the recorded account of this passage and have always believed it false [2], though I had determined to spend a couple of months on the matter, but now I have received a positive commission from the Court, resulting from a memorial lately read to the Academy of Science by the King’s geographer, Monsieur Buache. You may perhaps easily obtain it from Paris, or request it from Marquis Rangoni of Modena, so that you in Italy may be apprised of this new question, about which, however, our friend Belmonti, before taking leave of us, had the clearest information.
      If we do not succeed in making the passage, we shall return here in October, take on provisions and, following parallels likewise little known, head to the Marianas and Philippines, whence it remains for us to visit various Pacific islands, for the sole purposes of natural history and philosophy, as well as those harbours of New Holland and New Zealand which are more conducive to the kinds of research desired by Europe. I think however that we shall be unable to return to Europe before ‘94. It would cause me great regret if, in order to gain a few months, I left unfinished a part of the work I have undertaken, and whose organisation I have tried to conduct in such a way that its publication will scarcely be delayed a few months.


[1] Original now lost; copy in APSF; Picanyol, pp. 58-59; Manfredi 1999, pp. 263-264. [Editing Criteria]

[2] From his previous writings, however, it appears quite clear that this assertion is not correct.

Text courtesy of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani, Mulazzo, Italy; notes by Dario Manfredi; translation by John Black and Manuela Fahme.    Italian Original


Updated: January 21, 2015